Inferential Justification and the Transparency of Belief

Noûs 50 (1):184-212 (2016)
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Abstract

This paper critically examines currently influential transparency accounts of our knowledge of our own beliefs that say that self-ascriptions of belief typically are arrived at by “looking outward” onto the world. For example, one version of the transparency account says that one self-ascribes beliefs via an inference from a premise to the conclusion that one believes that premise. This rule of inference reliably yields accurate self-ascriptions because you cannot infer a conclusion from a premise without believing the premise, and so you cannot infer from a premise that you believe the premise unless you do believe it. I argue that this procedure cannot be a source of justification, however, because one can be justified in inferring from p that q only if p amounts to strong evidence that q is true. This is incompatible with the transparency account because p often is not very strong evidence that you believe that p. For example, unless you are a weather expert, the fact that it will rain is not very strong evidence that you believe it will rain. After showing how this intuitive problem can be made precise, I conclude with a broader lesson about the nature of inferential justification: that beliefs, when justified, must be underwritten by beliefs, when justified, must be underwritten by evidential relationships between the facts or propositions which those beliefs represent.

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David James Barnett
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

Citations of this work

Self-Knowledge.Brie Gertler - 2015 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Transparency and Self-Knowledge.Alex Byrne - 2018 - Oxford University Press.
The Evil Demon Inside.Nicholas Silins - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (2):325-343.
Embedded mental action in self-attribution of belief.Antonia Peacocke - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (2):353-377.
Self-Knowledge of Desire: When Inference Is Not Enough.Uku Tooming - 2022 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 30 (4):381-398.

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References found in this work

The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
The Structure of Empirical Knowledge.Laurence BonJour - 1985 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.

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